Robbi Pickeral, ESPN, December 20, 2012
A three-month investigation into academic fraud at the University of North Carolina revealed that not only student-athletes were given added academic benefits within the school’s African and Afro-American Studies department.
Rather, students at large benefited from anomalies specific to the department, such as unauthorized grade changes, forged faculty signatures on grade rolls and limited or no class time.
“This was not an athletic scandal,” former North Carolina Governor Jim Martin told UNC’s board of trustees. “It was an academic scandal, which is worse.”
The independent investigation, headed by Martin, shows that irregularities in the African and Afro-American Studies department went back further than an original probe revealed — to fall 1997.
However, according to the report presented to the board Thursday, no academic misconduct or other anomalies were found outside the AFAM department.
Martin and consulting firm Baker Tilly compiled almost two decades’ worth of enrollment data, looking at more than 172,000 course sections involving almost 120,000 undergraduates and almost 13,000 instructors. They also interviewed dozens of staff, students and officials, and concluded that no faculty member in AFAM was involved unethically in the scandal other than former chairman Julius Nyang’oro and former administrator Deborah Crowder.
According to the report, the review found 216 classes with proven or potential problems, including 454 unauthorized grade changes.
But the report also stated that the percentage of unauthorized grade changes for student-athletes was consistent with student-athlete enrollment in those courses.
“The athletic department, coaches and players did not create this,” Martin told the board of trustees. “It was not in their jurisdiction, it was the academic side.”
There is evidence that employees of the student-athlete support program were aware that certain courses within AFAM were so-called “Term Paper Courses” that were being taught as independent studies, according to the report.
Martin also told the board he found no evidence that any coaches knew anything about the irregularities.
In May, UNC publicly announced an internal probe found that 54 classes in the department of African and Afro-American Studies were either “aberrant” or “irregularly” taught from summer 2007 to summer 2011.
UNC said no student received a grade without submitting written work. But more than 50 percent of the students in those suspect classes were athletes. As first reported by The Raleigh News & Observer, one class in summer 2011 had an enrollment of 19 — 18 football players and one former football player.
In late July, a faculty committee looking into the scandal issued a new report, stating that academic counselors assigned to the athletes may have pushed them into those classes.